Navigating India’s burgeoning cocktail scene
India has raised the bar when it comes to the hospitality industry, with a fresh focus on novel experiences and quality. From craft cocktails dreamt up by pro mixologists to wine bars manned by world-class sommeliers, the Indian cocktail landscape is brimming with possibilities right now.
Here’s what you need to know, in an easy-to-understand SWOT analysis:
The dine-out culture in India has drastically changed over the last few years, while also evolving at a rapid pace. The reason? Millennials, who make up 65% of India’s population and love a good experience. These are the people who are tech-savvy, constantly exposed to global trends and lifestyles, well-read, well-travelled and have a high spending power. It is estimated that more than 60% millennials dine out at least 4-5 times a week (due to a variety of factors). Basically, evenings out are no longer restricted to weekends; in fact, a quick stopover at the local bar after work to unwind (with the added bonus of missing rush hour traffic) has become the norm for several young working professionals. Naturally then, there has been a definite increase in the consumption of alcohol and the demand for quality service providers. The resurgence of bars has pumped up liquor sales to an average of approximately 6.6%, a figure that’s only projected to grow further.
What’s important to remember here, though, is that it’s not just a demand for more, but a demand for better; that’s the real strength of the market we’re in.
In a word? Options. In two? Many options. While this generation is willing to experiment and spend, it is also fickle-minded and, given that it has multiple options available to them, rapidly jumps from one to another. The problem with that? Weak brand loyalty.
In addition, India continues to be a price-sensitive market, which means that the consumer is more inclined to consume what’s ‘cheaper’ or on an ‘offer’, rather than paying full price. This actually leaves a very small percentage of the market willing to pay the price as they would while traveling overseas, in metropolitan cities of India, for quality and differentiated products.
The wine drinking culture, though still strong, has also led the way for the gin-drinking consumer in 2020. There’s a new kind of willingness to try different spirits that has significantly opened up the market and made room for other internationally available spirits that are not mainstream in India.
Craft is a space that is not new to India but has recently been adopted by the beverage and bar scene, with craft beers and spirits making their way to the market in a big way.
The ever-changing consumer consumption pattern can also be looked at as an opportunity for bars to keep innovating and making sure that the consumer is engaged at all times.
It is no mystery or a hidden fact, that the Indian rules and regulations, licenses and the many laws and compliances and checks that alcohol beverage and bar owners have to go through, are a big factor for the slowness of the market and many missed opportunities.
The unstable and ever-changing laws and rules, for every state also pose a threat to any business, whether a bar – restaurant owner or someone who makes and owns Indian spirits or imports international brands.
However, this is still the best time to be a bar owner in India.
Indian revelers are now constantly looking to discover new flavors and commit to new establishments. To keep up, bars in India have been breaking away from the traditional and getting far more adventurous with their offerings. Several bartenders are creating their own distinctive, signature specials by using seasonal ingredients and adopting sustainable practices.
Also, the concept of guest bartenders has re-energized the business with international flair. This has spun off into an era of creative collaborations in the bar business. At these bar takeovers, guests get a chance to enjoy the craftsmanship and creations of some of the world’s best bartenders without travelling too far. Furthermore, Indian bartenders are also now being invited to showcase India (and Indian ingredients) on a global platform.
India has come a long way from the time when only Bloody Mary’s, made with canned tomato juice, made it to menus.
Akriti Agarwal is the CEO at Thirsty Beers and Thirsty City 127 Bar in Mumbai, having made the switch to entrepreneurship from her previous roles in Marketing in different organisations. Armed with qualifications in Economics, Math and International Business, she’s quite at ease taking briefings with her team behind the bar or being the tough nut to crack for a prospective vendor. In her free time, she likes to travel to different world cities to understand their culture and their food & beverage habits. Not to mention the drinks that come along with it.